Mapping AIDS: A Newark Story

Unknown-6 One incredibly important research misconception that I have learned through this class is that not everything that you want to study will have an archive, and it is a privileged lens that you approach a topic from to believe that it does. In cases where no archive exists, you have the opportunity to create one. My final project is titled, “Mapping AIDS: A Newark Story.” The story of AIDS in Newark is tragic and hidden. This project seeks to find a respectful way to honor and uncover those stories through a discovery grant.


On February 6, 1989, the New York Times published an article titled, “Inner City Under Siege: Fighting AIDS in Newark.” The article discussed the plight of Newark, New Jersey, a city whose population at the time was 330,000, with a majority African American and Latin American demographic. The city ranked fifth in the nation in number of AIDS cases, but was severely lacking in funds for government intervention, systemized treatment, or prevention. The article continues on the with the tragic study that revealed, “The plight of Newark is crystallized in this chilling fact: blood surveys last year in the maternity ward at University Hospital, which serves a mainly poor, black and Hispanic community, determined that 1 of every 23 babies was born to a mother infected with the AIDS virus.”[1] There was a particular devastation connected with the AIDS epidemic in Newark, because it was an impoverished minority city, the government was slow to react and provide aide.



The discovery grant is meant to create a knowledge community, combining scholars, digital humanists, and community members to create a user friendly website to express the devastation of AIDS in Newark through digital mapping. Mapping, (this particular project, for the moment, is using Google Maps) is a way to see patterns and make sense of a subject or topic.



The hope is to expand this project to include stories and an homage to those who succumbed to the disease. This project is important because it borrows from Jack Tchen’s idea of a community based and community driven digital project. The grant would be used to host community meetings and panels with varied groups within Newark throughout the community, to assess how their needs would best be served. AIDS is still a stigmatized and sensitive topic. Unknown-1By hosting panels that include community members and having community organizations involved on the ground level, this project hopes to pay homage while creating an archive to serve Newark. Newark, New Jersey is a vibrant, unique, and incredibly loyal community. They have stories to tell, and I want to listen, not only to their stories, but how they want to tell them. The hope is that by combining and creating Newark knowledge communities and a mapping database, the project will culminate in an interpretive visualization of the AIDS epidemic for an underserved community.



If you would like to learn more about the Newark Mapping Project, please click the link for the information page below.


[1] Lena Williams, “Inner City Under Siege: Fighting AIDS in Newark,” New York Times (New York City, New York), Feb. 6, 1989,

Other Sources:

John Kuo Wei Tchen and Liz Sevcenko, “The ‘Dialogic Museum’ Revisited: A Collaborative Reflection,” Letting Go.

“From crowdsourcing to knowledge communities: Creating meaningful scholarship through digital collaboration,”

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